Orthorexia. Have you ever heard about it? Do you know what it is?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, orthorexia is an unhealthy fixation on eating only healthy or “pure” foods. While it may not yet be in the DSM5, it has been identified as disordered eating behavior since the 1990s.
So why is this important now?
With the craze of sharing our diets on social media, the confusing diet advice on the web, and heavily marketed “healthy” foods, this has been on the rise recently. While many of us want to reach for healthier options, we often times do not beat ourselves up over choosing less nutrient rich foods. However; for someone who has orthorexic tendencies, choosing a less nutrient rich food is a struggle for them. They may severely beat themselves up, mentally or physically, for choosing a food that is not as healthy as they believe it is.
According to Timberline Knolls, Residential Treatment Center, an individual suffering with this may avoid foods containing ingredients such as:
- Artificial colors, preservatives, or flavors
- Pesticides or GMOs
- Fat, sugar, salt
- Animal or dairy products
The treatment center also sees common behavior changes such as:
- Obsessive concern over relationship between food choices and health concerns such as asthma or digestive problems
- Increasing avoidance of foods because of food allergies, without medical advice
- Noticeable supplement, herbal remedies, or probiotics increase
- Drastic reduction of opinions of acceptable food choices; sufferer may consume less than 10 chosen foods
- Irrational concern over food preparation techniques; such as washing of food or sterilization of utensils
So why is this a concern? Individuals should not have to fear what they are eating. We should all be able to eat in peace while choosing foods that nourish us and allow us to grow. Additionally, we should also have the freedom in ourselves and the peace of mind to choose foods that may not be as nutrient rich but we find satisfying if we so choose to.
If you believe you or someone you know may be falling into these habits, speak up. Orthorexia is a habit of disordered eating and needs to be addressed in order for the sufferer to get help. Every individual is different with how to approach them, so make sure you are patient, honest, and caring for anyone suffering with this or any other disordered eating habit.
Just because this pattern of disordered eating is targeted around eating healthier foods, does not necessarily mean it entails healthy habits. Disorders such as orthorexia affect the individual mentally just as they do physiologically.
Many treatment options are available online or through one’s doctor. If you are in need, research options and talk to a health professional or Dietitian for help.
Do not allow today’s portrayal of online perfection affect you and your happiness.
You deserve to have the freedom to eat peacefully.